Core Therapies: therapy offered at Healing River


"Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective combination of talk therapy and behavioural therapy. CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which patients reframe negative thinking patterns into positive thoughts. Transforming one’s thoughts will ultimately result in positive actions and behaviours in difficult moments."


CBT can be useful to individuals suffering from addictions, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. During CBT, patients have the opportunity to work with a therapist to find the source of negative thinking and transform those thoughts into a positive, growth mindset. The ultimate goal of CBT is to replace negative thoughts and actions with productive behaviours that make the individual feel equipped to overcome any difficult moment.

Individuals will recognize how their thinking influences their emotions and will establish personalized coping mechanisms. Working with a therapist to find effective and personalized coping mechanisms will ultimately help individuals identify and manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in real-world situations

Evidence from numerous large scale trials and quantitative reviews supports the efficacy (effectiveness) of CBT for alcohol and drug use disorders. CBT has been shown to be effective in relapse prevention.


During EMDR the individual simultaneously recalls traumatic memories and makes bilateral eye movements, which are two processes that are believed to tax the working memory. Memories are then processed in a more detached manner and become less vivid, less intense and less emotionally charged. After EMDR the memory targeted is less vivid, less emotional, and becomes a less detailed version of itself. This is important in the treatment of addictive disorders due to addictive behaviours and strong cravings being maintained by the maladaptive association held within addiction-related memories and visuals. Research on the effects of EMDR treatment on addictive disorder showed eye-movement (or bilateral stimulation) to reduce the sensory richness of addiction-related imagery and the accompanying craving levels. This decrease in the sensory richness of the memories makes them less emotionally intense and tolerable to the individual. Within all addictive disorders the retrieval of addictive-related memories is essential to the experience of cravings, which are themselves strong predictors of continual engagement in addictive behaviours and relapse.

Addiction-specific therapy for EMDR helps the client focus on reinforcing positive coping in recovery and reducing the impact of triggers for relapse. The clients are encouraged to strengthen their motivation to change before targeting their triggers for engaging in their addiction and relapse. Research found that therapy programs enhanced with the EMDR for addiction-specific protocol that targets “addiction memory” decrease cravings more effectively than “treatment as usual”. Further, it showed a marked decrease in the rates of relapse one to six months post-treatment and resulted in a decrease in depressive symptoms.

Over time the disturbing memory and associated beliefs, feelings, and sensations become less impactful until you are able to think about the event without reliving it. The memory is still there, but it is less upsetting.


Desensitizing addiction: Using eye Movements to reduce the intensity of substance-related Mental imagery and craving Marianne Littel* , Marcel A. van den Hout and Iris M. Engelhard

Treating Addictions with EMDR Therapy and the Stages of Change by Nancy J. Abel, LCSW, LADC, and John M. O’Brien, PhD,


Resolving Addiction With Somatic Therapy

At the heart of addiction and cravings is traumatic stress. The cycle of feeling stuck, and constantly being in a repetitive energy pattern of fight, flight, or freeze survival response. These states are easily triggered and are dissociative in nature making it hard to remain in the present. Tendencies to numb, check out, deny, or distract to avoid unpleasant memories are common responses. At Healing River, mindful self-compassion strategy and meditation practice are taught to orientate our clients to the present; directing attention to the sobering reality of the present moment and away from the addictive flooding of painful feelings, left over from past trauma. 

Somatic Therapy for addictions at Healing River fosters an atmosphere where clients can experience a relaxed state of mind and body. Increasing our capacity to identify current safety will protect us from the cycle of hyper and hypo arousals (hyper vigilant or dissociative response) left over from traumatic memory. Subtle triggers of repeated flashback from traumatic events are one of the elements that can be at the root of addiction. Somatic Experiencing therapy helps clients create a greater awareness of the safety, wholeness, and sobering relaxation available in the present moment, thus strengthening internal resources needed for their recovery journey.


Van der Kolk, B.A., (1999). Beyond the talking cure: Somatic experience, subcortical imprints and the treatment of trauma.

Marlock, G.,Weiss, H., Young, C. & Soth, M., (2015). The handbook of body psychotherapy & somatic psychology


What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery is a science-based program to help people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behaviour. This includes addiction to substances such as alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or behaviours such as gambling,  sex, eating, self-harming, etc.

SMART stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training. SMART was founded in 1994 in the United States. It has grown into a worldwide network of mutual-aid meetings - face-to-face and online - in which participants can get help from others in recovery. SMART is growing; they operate in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and many other countries around the world.

No single approach to recovery is right for everyone. Research suggests that mutual aid and professional treatment can help people who are in recovery; many people benefit from a combination of the two. SMART Recovery helps participants decide if they have a problem, builds their motivation to

change, and offers a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery.

In SMART Recovery we emphasize: 

  1. Enhancing motivation:
  2. Refusing to act on urges to use;
  3. Managing life’s problems in a sensible and effective way without substances; and
  4. Developing a positive, balanced, and healthy lifestyle.